The auto industry places a high priority on continuity and incremental change, but every so often the opportunity to make a major product move becomes too compelling to ignore. We have an all-new GMC Acadia for 2017 that's seven inches shorter and 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The Acadia wears its new form well; the shift to a more mainstream size and attitude brings clear benefits and gives crossover buyers a seriously compelling option that matches up very well against segment mainstays.

Pricing and Equipment

The Acadia has been completely redesigned and refocused for 2017, going from GM's large Lambda platform to a midsize chassis shared with the sophisticated Cadillac XT5. Your choice of trim level will determine whether you get the 194-horsepower four-cylinder or 310-horsepower V6. All-wheel drive is available with both engine. EPA fuel economy estimates range from 21 city/26 highway for a four-cylinder, front-drive Acadia to 18 city/25 highway with the V6 and all-wheel drive.

Trim levels start with the base SL, which has an MSRP just under $30,000 and includes three-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a much-appreciated rearview camera. The SLE and SLT are split into two sub-levels, -1 and -2, with a steady increase in features (heated seats, leather seats, Bose stereo, etc.) and price (the SLE-1 starts at $33,375, the SLT-2 at $42,675) from level to level. The Acadia Denali (as always, a name sure to amuse folks who collect trail maps) brings touchscreen navigation and plenty of brightwork for an asking price of $45,845, plus fees.

  • A broad range of contemporary safety gear (automatic front braking, lane minders, blind zone alerts, parking assists) is either standard or available on the Acadia.
  • The Denali is a serious contender at the luxury end of the mainstream, featuring the full safety suite and ventilated seats, a hands-free liftgate, and a high-tech Continuously Variable Ride Control suspension.
  • The All Terrain package, which includes some driveline revisions and black trim, is available on all SLE and SLT models.
  • In a clear nod to one of its intended uses, the Acadia's standard backup camera includes graphics to ease the often-frustrating task of lining up a trailer hitch.

Performance Pros

GMC Acadia

GMC's clear intention was to create a vehicle capable of battling for sales in the broad middle of the intensely competitive midsize crossover market, and the execution fulfills every intention. The Acadia is a solid, capable, very usable vehicle that's pleasantly suited to everyday driving.

  • Dropping 700 pounds will quicken anyone's moves, and so the Acadia is now a much more responsive and manageable vehicle.
  • Most Acadias will be built with the V6 motor, which serves up plenty of sable power.
  • The radical weight loss provides benefits beyond handling. Fuel efficiency is noticeably better this year.

Performance Cons

  • The Acadia's handling may be improved compared to its plus-size predecessor, but body control is still less than ideal in tight corners and at high cruising speeds.
  • The four-cylinder engine is adequate for daily-driver duty, but strains under any significant load.
  • Rugged looks aside, the Acadia isn't much of an off-roader. Even the All-Terrain package is more aesthetic than functional.

Interior Pros

GMC Acadia

GM's interior design studios have been on a roll lately, and the Acadia's cabin is the newest beneficiary of their styling and packaging skills. The driving environment is straightforward and attractive, and comfort levels are high enough to minimize passenger grumbling on long trips.

  • Interior controls strike a very nice balance between touchscreen flexibility and the gratifying feel (and usability) of traditional knobs.
  • The seats are genuinely comfortable for the long haul.
  • The Denali's trim and fittings are upscale enough to feel like they belong in a different, more expensive car.

Interior Cons

  • Adults will not be comfortable for long (if at all) in the third row.
  • The Acadia unfortunately revives a venerable GM tradition of fake wood trim that bears little resemblance to actual lumber.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

It's difficult enough to maintain competitiveness in a market segment; it's another level of risk and effort altogether to mount a new challenge against established powers. GMC is intentionally pitting the new Acadia against some very well-respected and popular rivals, and by every indication it has produced a vehicle that's immediately competitive on its merits.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

We know that mainstream crossovers rarely see any off-road duty more strenuous than parking on the grass at a large event, so taking a pass on heavy and expensive off-road hardware is usually understandable. Still, we'd like to see the All Terrain package live up to its name with a more assertive attitude and some extra capability.

The Bottom Line

The Acadia is a serious and well-measured entry into a fiercely competitive segment. It's better matched to both the real world and modern market preferences than its predecessor, and is worthy of serious consideration from customers looking for a comfortable vehicle which can manage heavy tasks in any weather.